In regard to Knox’s appointing of a director of spiritual life, I am troubled.
As an atheist, I am not wild about public displays of religion, but I realize these things are important to some people. I expect others to respect my unapologetic lack of religion (and “spirituality”), so I try and respect their need for it. However, when a school — one that I am proud to have attended — places spirituality near the top of its list of important things to support, I find myself unable to stay quiet.
This new position is nothing short of absurd. I understand it is not being funded by tuition money (if it is, though, then let the hellfire rage), but rather by a private donor. And this donor chooses to remain anonymous? What does that say? What does that say about faith and spirituality? What does that say about the donor and what does that say about Knox? Anonymous donorship is what renamed the law school at George Mason the “Antonin Scalia Law School.” Donors playing puppet master is unsettling. I question the donor’s morals and ethics given they chose to pay for this person’s salary, rather than, say, contribute to scholarships or improve buildings.
But, here’s my issue:
How can a place promise spiritual support if all spirits are not being represented? How can a person without religion feel comfortable being guided and supported by someone with a specific religious bias? I’m sure the intentions are good and Ms. Seiwert is going to attempt to be nothing less than inclusive, but this is just an impossible task and really highlights the privilege bestowed upon those subscribing to Christianity.
A Christian friend asked me if I’d have the same feelings if the new position was filled by a Buddhist or someone wearing a hijab. I absolutely would — this position is inappropriate, alienating and entirely unnecessary. However, I believe someone who is a minority, practicing a religion that isn’t as unquestionably loved and valued as Christianity, is far more qualified to discuss societal sensitivities and tolerance.
I’m wondering about the interview process. Were spiritual advisors of multiple faiths consulted and considered? Who were the decision makers?
Furthermore, unless it is explicitly stated in the mission statement of an educational institution, the administration has zero obligation to cater to the religious and spiritual needs of its students. That responsibility should fall on the student and the student alone. Spiritual support should be sought elsewhere and has no place in a non-denominational curriculum. Start a club or seek your support off-campus. Discuss religion is the classroom, engage in an open dialogue with people outside your faith, but if you find yourself in a crisis, do not expect your college administration to cater to your faith-based turmoil. That’s not how it works.
Knox has now become unrecognizable to me, a graduate of the class of 2012. One of the major reasons I chose to attend Knox was because it did not have a religious affiliation. Knox prided itself on opening its doors to all walks of life, promising an equal educational opportunity and support. As a private institution, Knox has all the power in the world to elect to offer “spiritual support,” but that’s not the school I elected to attend. If this is Knox’s attempt to answer students demands of adequate mental health support, then this is totally missing the mark.